Monday, September 13, 2010


Or maybe more aptly titled "Looking back, Looking ahead".

2010 has been a year of incredible highs and terrible lows (that could no doubt have been worse). Lady luck had my back and I have had the opportunity to make a shot at recovering from a dumb mistake that could have taken me out of the game for good. My good fortune didn't stop there, I've had some of the most amazing people around me all along and they have certainly propped me up through the lows and boosted my highs. So despite the fact that I am quick to quip that I am anxious to put 2010 behind me, or that it has been a very rough year for me, I have also been fortunate beyond measure.

I achieved the most amazing fitness of my entire life early this year. At 35 years old I was ripped and healthy. I then learned that looking ahead both literally and figuratively is the most important thing one can do in life as looking down knocked me off my perch. I have not blogged much since my accident for various reasons and feel that a hearty "Thank You" to those that have helped me this year is much overdue.

It isn't in my nature to give up or go lightly on myself. Anyone that knows me well knows that I demand the most of those I choose to keep around me and anything less than 100% from myself is unacceptable. When Allison received an email from USA Cycling informing her that she had been selected to represent her country at MTB World Championships I felt like I was getting a chance to redeem myself for my early season mistake that left me riding the couch for most of the season. I pulled the throttle wide fucking open and ignored the pain to help her prepare. I didn't ease up on myself when my broken knee protested, and I worked through my neck locking up on longer rides.

Going to Worlds meant so much to both of us. The experience itself didn't disappoint. Every aspect of the trip was epic and we embraced the ebb and flow of emotion and memories. The preparatory training with Allison stripped about 10 lbs. from my couch riding fitness level and made me hungry for a return to competition. This past weekend presented a great opportunity at State Championships. I didn't have any high expectations for a stellar finish, only a desire to compete, to not stand on the sideline.

On the drive up to Bonelli Sunday morning I was anxious. We cranked some music and my arousal level was high. I struggled to quell my emotions and excitement. I didn't know how many others would toe the line with me but after 6 months between races I had more questions than answers. Shortly after we arrived the CAT2 races started and I felt the urge to go cheer for the racers challenging themselves and shredding the course. I took a few photos and did my best to help motivate. Before I knew it, the time had arrived for me to warm up. I rolled around with Allison and it seemed like every single person in attendance not only knew who we were but were happy to see us warming up together again. Most shared their sentiments verbally, everyone gave a friendly smile. It was awesome! Thanks!

I got my "7" on my right calf and resisted the urge to push toward the front of the group as we staged for the start. I had a game plan, to race my own race no matter what, I didn't want to start too hard or get in the way of the amazing athletes that were starting with me. Some deep breaths and we were off. I slotted in somewhere near the back and did my best to exercise patience. On the first single track descent the pace was painfully slow and I voiced my opinion loudly, "Come on guys, my wife rides faster than this!" By some crazy stroke of luck she was going the opposite way about 10 yards to my left on the single track climb and let out a yell after hearing my comment.

The first two laps I suppressed my desire to dig deep into my shallow pool of fitness. I sat in and rode wheels as much as possible. I down shifted to turn easier gears when I could have cranked it up the short steep climbs in my current gear. I didn't know how far back I was but I knew the leaders were long gone as I caught a glimpse of Ty Kady going the opposite direction on one section of the course. I was encouraged however because I would occasionally pick up and pass a rider that had slowed from the opening pace and brutal sun. I soon found myself in a scary place. I was in no-mann's land between the fastest amateurs (read semi-pro's) in the nation up front and the chasing athletes behind on a super fast course where drafting provided significant advantage.

I worked to keep my pace up and drain my water bottle every lap, loving every minute of the battles that took place between me and some of the riders that I have loved racing with over the last year or so: awesome athletes each and every one. I had a song stuck in my head that Allison has been listening to of late, "Not Afraid" by Eminem. I battled my demons and felt the presence of so many great people that had taken my hand and were supporting me in my effort, my return to racing, the end of the 2010 MTB racing season.

In the end I finished fourth. I had fought hard and earned a spot on the lower steps of the podium exceeding my pre-race expectations by leaps and bounds. I was totally spent and cramping, but absolutely elated. It was a great day. My "gimp" status has been revoked. No more excuses. Hold the throttle wide fucking open, BRAAAAAAP.

Looking back, this year was not a year of defeat, it was one of spectacular victories. I hope to not be quite so challenged in the future, but I also hope that I can share as many triumphs and continue to surround myself with stellar people.

So happy to be here! So glad to share it!


Luke said...

good job bud...keep fighten!

Reedster said...

Awesome Justin. Way to recover and then get back to training. I also like your attitude. Most things aren't black and white and it's nice to see you looking at all the different shades of Gray.